Third Degree Murder in Florida: An Overview by an Experienced Attorney
WHAT ARE THE ELEMENTS OF THIRD DEGREE MURDER IN FLORIDA?
Under Sec. 782.04, Florida Statutes, the elements of Third Degree Murder in Florida are that a person:
- Killed another human being;
- Had no premeditated design to cause any person’s death; AND
- Was committing or attempting to commit any felony except for the ones listed below at the time of the killing:
- Trafficking in a Controlled Substance;
- Sexual Battery;
- Aggravated Child Abuse;
- Aggravated Abuse of an Elderly Person or Disabled Adult;
- Aircraft Piracy;
- Unlawful Throwing, Placing, or Discharging of a Destructive Device or Bomb;
- Unlawful distribution of certain controlled substances by an adult when the substance caused the death of a user;
- Home-invasion robbery;
- Aggravated Stalking;
- Murder of Another Human Being;
- Resisting an Officer with Violence;
- Aggravated Fleeing or Eluding with Serious Bodily Injury or Death; or
- Act of terrorism or in furtherance of an act of terrorism that is a felony.
The underlying felony must not be one of the offenses listed above for the charge to constitute Third Degree Murder. If the underlying offense was one of the ones listed, then the charge becomes First Degree Murder, which is punished much more severely.
Note that if it was an accomplice that did the actual killing, you (as well as the accomplice) are still charged as if you had killed the victim yourself.
Penalties for Third Degree Murder in Florida
||Up to 15 years
||Up to 15 years
||Up to $10,000
||8 (or 74 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code
||120 points added because of the victim’s death
|Minimum Permissible Sentence
||124.5 months (a little over 10 years and 4 months) in prison
Third Degree Murder is a second-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 15 years of prison or probation, and a $10,000 fine. (And yes, it is confusing that the charge is called murder in the third degree, while it’s considered a felony in the second degree, but such is Florida law.)
The charge carries a severity level of 8 (or 74 points) under the Criminal Punishment Code. Then 120 points are added because of the victim’s death. Assuming there are no other aggravating circumstances, this translates to a minimum permissible sentence of 124.5 months (a little over 10 years and 4 months) in prison. The judge cannot impose a lesser sentence unless special circumstances exist for what is called a “downward departure” from the minimum sentence.
How to Fight a Charge of Third-Degree Murder in Florida
Florida has very strong self-defense laws. Enacted in 2005, Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” laws entitle you to defend yourself and other people if you reasonably believe it is necessary to prevent imminent harm. When it comes to deadly force, Sec. 776.013, Florida Statutes, authorizes the use or threat of such force when you reasonably believe it is necessary to protect yourself or another from imminent death or great bodily harm or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.
These laws also eliminated the “duty of retreat.” Before, someone who was being assaulted was required to try to escape if possible before he or she can resort to self-defense; now, as long as you are in a place in which you have a right to be, you can use the appropriate level of force to protect yourself without trying to escape first.
Not every homicide is a crime—sometimes accidents happen, and sometimes it would be unfair to hold someone criminally responsible for another person’s death. Section 782.03, Florida Statutes, describes three types of instances where homicide is considered “excusable”: (1) when the homicide is committed by accident and the defendant was acting lawfully, exercising ordinary caution, and lacking any unlawful intent; (2) when the homicide is committed by accident in the heat of passion, after a sudden and legally sufficient provocation; and (3) when the homicide is committed upon sudden combat and the defendant neither used a dangerous weapon nor acted in a cruel and unusual manner. Note that this relates only to a criminal case, as you may still be sued civilly for causing a wrongful death.
Other Potential Defenses
Here are just a few of the myriad other strategies we can use to challenge the State’s case or prove your innocence:
- Moving to throw out evidence that was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights
- Show that there is no evidence supporting the charge
- Show that you have an alibi
1. What constitutes Third Degree Murder in Florida?
Third Degree Murder in Florida is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual, is murder in the third degree and constitutes a felony of the second degree.
2. What is the punishment for Third Degree Murder in Florida?
Third Degree Murder is a second-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 15 years of prison or probation, and a $10,000 fine.
3. What is the difference between First Degree Murder and Third Degree Murder in Florida?
First Degree Murder is a premeditated act and is considered more severe, often punishable by life imprisonment or the death penalty. Third Degree Murder, on the other hand, is an act that is not premeditated or planned in advance and is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
4. What defenses can be used against a charge of Third Degree Murder in Florida?
Defenses can include proving that the act was in self-defense, that it was an excusable homicide, or that the defendant has an alibi. Other strategies can include moving to throw out evidence that was obtained in violation of your constitutional rights or showing that there is no evidence supporting the charge.
5. Why do I need a lawyer if I’m charged with Third Degree Murder in Florida?
Being charged with Third Degree Murder is a serious matter that can lead to severe penalties if convicted. A lawyer can help you understand the charges, explore potential defenses, and represent you in court. They can also negotiate with prosecutors, possibly reducing the charges or the potential penalties.
Get the Best Defense Attorney for Your Case
Murder cases are extremely complex. Our criminal defense team understands the challenges in constructing a strong defense, but time and time again we have fought hard to overcome these challenges for our murder clients. A strong defense starts with an in-depth investigation of the circumstances. Knowing how the death happened and the possible role you played in the incident helps us formulate the best defense strategy.
Since a lot is at stake when you are facing any kind of murder charge, it’s important to employ a homicide lawyer with experience on your side. Our team of expert criminal law attorneys has tried (and won) numerous murder trials. They will explain what the charges you are facing mean and will not leave a stone unturned to look into every aspect of your case. Additionally, they will outline the options available and develop a roadmap for the best way to move forward in your particular case. We do not believe in a one size all approach. Contact us to experience the difference! Call or text 407-476-4111 today for a free case strategy session.